SAN FRANCISCO (03/02/2000) - PowerDesk has always made Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Explorer look like a truly pathetic file manager. After all, the tool from Mijenix offers a split view that lets you work with two folders in one window, a move and copy dialog box, and integrated Zip file support. Now PowerDesk is about to get even better -- and, with some limitations, it will even be free.
Mijenix (now a part of Ontrack) is preparing two new versions of PowerDesk for release. The free variant is PowerDesk 4, which will improve the user interface but will also remove some features found in earlier versions. If you want all of the features, both old and new, you'll have to spring for PowerDesk 4 Pro. A beta version of the free PowerDesk 4 is now available at Mijenix' Web site.
PowerDesk Pro is not yet in beta.
The beta of PowerDesk 4 shows off some welcome changes to the user interface. A new arrow icon shows you how the files are sorted in the detail view, and, at last, the Copy To/Move dialog box can be resized and made legible. Other notable improvements include the capability to display only simple, generic icons (which speeds up the program considerably), and an easier way to list all of the files on a drive.
And the best improvement of all is in the file viewer interface. Previously, you could only view a file in a pane within a PowerDesk window. Now you can make it "float" as its own separate window.
Free Version Will Cost You
Unfortunately, the file viewer also contains the free version's biggest sacrifice. PowerDesk 4 doesn't come with any file viewer of its own; it integrates with whatever viewer you have. So unless you buy a quality viewer, you're stuck with the extremely limited version of QuickView built into Windows. (The current PowerDesk 3 comes with a version of QuickView that is marginally better than the one that comes with Windows.) The free PowerDesk 4 also lacks the folder synchronizer and size manager that are part of the current commercial version of the product.
Of course, PowerDesk 4 lacks these features because Ontrack wants you to buy PowerDesk 4 Pro. Ontrack promises that this shrink-wrapped version will have all of these missing features, and more. In fact, it's supposed to be able to view more files than does QuickView Plus, which is frequently regarded as the best file viewer available.
PowerDesk 4 Pro also promises to have FTP capabilities. If this is implemented properly, uploading files to your Web site will be as easy as moving them to a floppy disk.
Ontrack has not yet set a price for PowerDesk 4 Pro. Representatives say only that it will be "competitively priced."
A free PowerDesk means any Windows user can have a decent file manager.
Naturally, Ontrack is betting that you'll try PowerDesk and decide you want more than a decent file manager -- that you'll pay for an even better edition.